Oct. 27, 2020: Release Day for JANE DARROWFIELD AND THE MADWOMAN NEXT DOOR By Barbara Ross

I’m a big fan of Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake mysteries. When I heard she had a new series coming out last year, featuring Jane Darrowfield, I was delighted. The series opener, Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody, which released last year through Barnes & Noble, and this year in wide release, was even better than expected. The second adventure in the series, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door, is both delightful and frightening.

Jane is retired. Determined not to wither away, she has a business as a professional busybody, helping people with problems that don’t necessarily make sense for law enforcement.  She’s an older protagonist who is not a cliché. She has a rich life with her friends, her garden, her business, and her growing relationship with her lover, Harry. She’s hurt by the estrangement with her son. She’s a real person dealing with changes in her life, not a trope in a formula, which is one of the reasons the series is so refreshing.

In this case, her young, successful neighbor, who recently bought the house next door, hired Jane because she’s having blackouts and hearing voices. She’s not sure if someone is harassing her or if she’s going crazy.  She has a state-of-the-art smart house, with every electronic comfort possible, and even a panic room.

Jane takes the case, which escalates when Megan disappears. Megan has a successful, ruthless father, an estranged mother recovering from addiction, a best friend in the office who might not be what he seems, and a security system so complicated it needs constant service by the area’s technician.

As Jane follows each step and each lead with determination, fortitude, and an eye for detail, the web around Megan grows more complex, surprising, and frightening. As a single woman reading the book, Megan’s danger hit close to home. It’s a modern twist on the old story of betrayal of trust. The sympathy she feels for Megan’s estranged mother, mirrored by her own estrangement from her son is beautifully, delicately handled. The book is engaging and frightening, and ultimately hopeful. I loved it, read it straight through in one sitting, and am already looking to the next book.

This book is available exclusively through Barnes and Noble here.

Reader Expansion Challenge April: MURDER AT LONGBOURN by Tracy Kiely


Murder at Longbourn by Tracy Kiely. New York: Minotaur Books. 2009.

This month’s challenge was truly a challenge. I’m in the process of reading many books in favorite genres by new-to-me authors, but they are for a contest, and I can’t talk about any of them until the contest results go live.

I picked up MURDER AT LONGBOURN by Tracy Kiely when I was browsing the shelves of my local library. Set on Cape Cod, inspired, in some ways, by PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, I thought it sounded like an interesting story.

I’m a big fan of mysteries. I have been, since I first started reading Nancy Drew way back when, and figured out my allowance in terms of how many Nancy Drew books I could buy. I still have them. I read in many genres, I enjoy many genres, but mystery is often the most satisfying.

Elizabeth Parker goes to her Aunt Winnie’s new B&B on Cape Cod to celebrate New Year’s. She runs into her childhood nemesis Peter, and into murder when the staged murder mystery entertainment for the evening takes an unexpected turn. Layers of intrigue and hidden motivation, mistaken identities, humor, and witty nods to Jane Austen blend for an excellent mix.

Clues and red herrings are beautifully distributed throughout the tale. If you pay attention, you can figure it out — yet still be surprised by a few of the elements. Kiely is excellent at keeping the balance between giving the reader enough information, but not letting the reader get too far ahead of the story or characters.

I sometimes felt Elizabeth’s learning curve wasn’t fast enough. But I liked her determination to get herself out of the jams she got herself into instead of expecting to be rescued.

I plan to read the rest in the series. Or, I should say, I’ll read the rest in the series once I finish reading the entries for the contest I’m judging. And then I’ll start reading her other series, too. I’m delighted to have come across Tracy Kiely’s work. I hope you’ll give it a try, too, and let me know what you think.

May’s challenge is to switch it up. If you usually read fiction, read non-fiction. If you usually read non-fiction, read fiction.

I read both, but I definitely read more fiction than non-fiction, so I’ll choose a non-fiction book for next month. Our discussion date is Tuesday, May 21.

What book did you read this month? Do you recommend it? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments.



Savasana at Sea Cover tiny


Tomorrow, November 15, is the official release day of SAVANASA AT SEA, the first Nautical Namaste Mystery, under the Ava Dunne name.

This is an absolute case of I wrote the book I wanted to read, but couldn’t find. I worked in the office of a cruise line many years ago, and was drawn to the multi-cultural, international people that work on ships. Everyone has a story, and it’s a story worth telling. I also liked the aspects of a locked room mystery that being on a cruise ship held.

As a yoga practitioner, I’m annoyed when I see those who practice yoga portrayed as flaky or silly or dumb. Most of the teachers I know are smart and grounded and funny and talented. Practitioners are from all walks of life, so you have all kinds of people. They’re not generically flaky or stupid.

I knew I wanted to write a mystery. I wanted to use elements of the cozy mystery genre, but I also knew that the formula itself was too restrictive for what I wanted to say. Which is why this is labeled as “not quite cozy.”

I also wanted elements of comedy and romance. Early drafts had more of a chick-lit flavor to them, and the comedy felt forced instead of organic. When I let the humor and the banter flow from character rather than formula, it worked.

One of the things I loved about working on Broadway with diverse casts such as we had on shows like Miss Saigon and David Henry Hwang’s re-envisioning of Flower Drum Song was that we had the opportunity for real discussions about race, religion, sexism, oppression, and the casual comments we sometimes make, not realizing they’re hurtful. We could talk openly, without getting either offensive or defensive, about our experiences, and try to come up with ways to make the world a better, more tolerant place. Since we were artists, it often took the form of stories, plays, performance pieces, songs or poetry. I tried to capture some of that sense of collaboration in these stories.

I hope you like SAVASANA AT SEA. For those of you not familiar with yoga, “Savasana” is also known as “Corpse Pose.” I felt that was appropriate for a mystery, but I wanted to use the traditional name for the pose, not “Corpse Pose.”

At the back of each book, I also have an article with travel tips, and links to some of the real places mentioned in the book. Since the cruise route changes from book to book, it gives the crew — and the reader — chances to visit fascinating, beautiful places all over the world.

The book is available digitally, through several outlets. The Nautical Namaste website has more information about the series. I also have more background information about the crew, short bios written as though they’d be handed out in Welcome Packets, and information about the backgrounds of passengers relevant to each voyage.

We’re in negotiations for a small, traditional print run to happen at some point next year. The contracts aren’t signed, so it’s not a definite, but fingers crossed the numbers for digital sales will be strong enough to warrant a print run.

Below is an excerpt from Savasana at Sea:

“I wonder how many guests tried to hide in their cabins this time.” Roz McIntyre snickered as she joined us. She was a dancer on the entertainment staff, a tall, slender, dark-skinned woman with exquisite posture, who reminded me of a cross between a Daddy Long-Legs and a giraffe. From the moment I set foot aboard the Charisma, she decided we would be friends. Considering Geri’s hostility, I was grateful. “Hello, Sebastian. Hello, Sophie. How’s it going?”
“I’m sure we’ll hear in CB later, when the bets are paid off,” Sebastian replied. “Crew bar,” he added, for my benefit.
“I can put the damn life vest on in my sleep,” I grumbled.
“Let’s hope you never need to,” Sebastian dropped the joking tone.
“Bet Geri’s making you teach the two o’clock Pilates,” said Roz. “While she’s off assignating with Gary or Viktor. She hates Pilates.”
“She told some guy named Gary she didn’t have time for him right now,” I said. “Is ‘assignating’ even a word?”
“I’ll submit it to the OED when I get a minute.” Roz nodded. “Then it’s Viktor. Thanks for the tip. It’ll give me an ace up my sleeve against her when I need it.”
“Geri’s not supposed to mess with the ship’s second officer.” Sebastian frowned.
“Or he with her,” Roz shot back. “I don’t like Geri, but let’s not blame the woman for everything, shall we?” She tugged my arm. “Let’s grab something to eat. If you don’t eat when you can, you’ll pass out at the most inconvenient times.”
“Watch out for that one.” Sebastian nodded in Roz’s direction. “She likes bad men and good champagne.”


SAVASANA AT SEA Buy links here.













It’s here!  The Death Sparkles Anthology is available.  Here’s the Kindle link, and it will also be available on B&N and Smashwords.  I wrote the introduction and have the final story, “Sea Diamond” , a science-fiction mystery that introduces the ass-kicking, take-no prisoners Fiona Steele.  We WILL see more of her.

Nine authors contributed to this anthology, inspired from the prompt “the diamond necklace dangled from the dead woman’s hand” and nine very different interpretations of that.  The wonderful PJ Friel did the cover AND is a contributor, with “The Needing”.